A brother's quest to fulfill his disabled sister's dream of becoming a Hollywood diva takes an unexpected turn when it starts to threaten his engagement, illustrating both the cost and rewards of unconditional love.
Interview with Director Brian Donovan
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! Initially, I just wanted to share my sister with the world, but when I heard that 90% of expecting parents were choosing to abort their fetus upon discovering potential disabilities through genetic testing I started to worry. I’m not here to judge and my film stays far away from the pro-life/pro-choice battle. However, growing up, my father was deaf, my sister had Down syndrome and my best friend was born with Kyphosis or in lay man’s terms, a ‘hunch back,’ and I can’t imagine my life without them.
They have contributed more to humanity than almost everyone else I know combined. I felt it was important and necessary to make a film about my sister who personified to me that ‘it’s not who you are when you’re born, but who you are when you live.’
Also, that everyone’s dreams are important and should be honored and pursued with every fiber of one's being. Dreams not only give our lives purpose, but they create a wonderful vibration in the world if pursued with good intention.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I’ll let an audience member who just reached out to me via Facebook speak to this: "Kelly's Hollywood shook my heart like a snow globe and caused flurries of laughter, tears, hope and renewed my faith in what's possible. It's the kind of story telling that inspires all who see it to be better, play harder, laugh more, live more fully and to love wholeheartedly and to NEVER STOP DREAMING"
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
My film is a love story. So, I would say it’s common to all of us, as is the theme of pursuing your dreams and how important they are to our very existence and purpose. My sister was disabled, and even though this fact is the underbelly of the whole film it becomes less and less central to the story in that the audience responds first and foremost to the bond my sister and me have and how much we accomplished by supporting each other.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Well, in the beginning if you came into my office and saw the giant mural I created of characters, stories, conflict, etc...you probably would have sent me to therapy. My friend said it looked like a giant Rorschach Inkblot Test! It was dense with black Sharpie. I liken the whole process to what I imagine sculptors go through. You start with a mass and then shape and shape, and for awhile it still looks like a big lump of clay.
But gradually (and for me 'gradually' meant years!) it starts to look like something. I killed a lot of babies, as the filmmaker saying goes. It's a brutal process watching all this incredible footage fall to the floor, but all part of finding the true essence of what you're trying to say in the leanest and most effective way possible.
More specifically, in the beginning I had a lot more themes I wanted to address i.e. ego, solitude, love, dreams, etc. In the end, I whittled it down to love and dreams—oh, and co-dependency and boundaries, or lack there of, haha.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It’s been incredible. I feel very fortunate because when you work on a doc for so long you have no idea if you’re polishing a turd and if an audience will even respond. The reaction from kids has been particularly gratifying—even though the film is rated PG13, children get it, I mean really get it—that love transcends.
When we showed the movie in Ohio, an 11 year old girl said, “I just wanna say, THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE I’VE EVEN SEEN. IT MADE ME FEEL SO MUCH!!” My first thought was, ‘better than Frozen!?’ Also, an eight year old boy with Down syndrome exclaimed to his parents five minutes into the film, “MOM DAD, SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE ME!!!” He had never seen a film with someone with Down syndrome in it.
Another superb reaction from came from a mother who conveyed that her son, ‘Mr. Jock, Mr. Popular, Mr. Cool,’ cried in the car on the way home and said he had never seen anything like it, and ‘it was so much better than all the superhero crap.’ Most importantly, he said it made him want to be a better person.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It hasn’t challenged my point of view and nothing has been that surprising. I’d say if I were to address anything it was would be the reaction from parents of very young special needs kids, because it’s very confronting for them to see. Kelly lived in a different time. Parents have beautiful high hopes for their kids and seeing how alone Kelly was a lot of the time, is challenging.
Also, most professionals in the special needs community are very strict about boundaries and fostering outlandish dreams, I wasn’t with Kelly, so there’s definitely opinions about that!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
More exposure, more awareness. I love that this site exists and you care enough to get more interest in small indie films. It’s important because we’re competing for eyeballs and none of the indies have money for promotion, etc. So, every little bit helps. Based on all the feedback, I know I have a great film that’s changing lives and making the world a better place—please excuse my impropriety, but I want people to see it.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
All of the above…haha! You know, it’s all who you know. I have an offer from a sales agent I’m mulling over, but you know, the more the merrier.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
So far, so good…just on a bigger scale :)
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
This isn’t the entirety of the film or even what it’s about, but it would definitely ignite a conversation: What if you found out you were having a child with special needs, what would you do? But I would quickly follow up with ‘love wins and anything can be’ and expound accordingly using my film as a launching pad.
Would you like to add anything else?
That we’re more the same than different, and if we start with this understanding, so much more love, tolerance and appreciation of each other can be fostered.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Sadly, my sister passed away, but as the film illustrates, I’d like to think she’d be ripping it up on all creative fronts…but, she’s too busy Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze right now. I just created and finished shooting a TV pilot teaser.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Length: 82 Minutes
Director: Brian Donovan
Producer: Brian Donovan
Writer: Brian Donovan and Kelly Donovan
About the writer, director and producer: Brian Donovan has been a professional actor for over twenty-five years in film, television and radio. In addition, Brian has been the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Repertory Theatre since 1994.
Key cast: Starring Kelly Donovan
Looking for: Sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists
Funders: Self funded with some help from friends.
Release date: Played the Sprout Film Festival in May 2015
Where can I watch it? It played at the Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles. It will be screened at the National Down Syndrome Convention in the USA in July.